Lolo’s Carefree Summer Getaway Through France pt 1

Lolo French Antiques Guide to Experiencing the Real France 

It’s August and back to school time. Those lazy, crazy days of summer are slipping away — in America, that is. But not in France. Vacation is sacred to the French. Five, seven, even nine weeks of vacation per year is not unusual for them. From the first week of July until early September, the French are “hard at vacation”… not, “hard at work!” Les grandes vacances (the summer holidays) are generally divided between the juillettists (Julyists), those who take the month, yes “month,” of July off, and the aoûtiens (Augustians), those who begin their month-long vacation in August.

Lolo and I experienced this sacred rite first hand during a recent buying trip/vacation in France that took us from the picturesque villages dotting Provence to the coastal scenery and seaside resorts of the Loire-Atlantique. I had dreams of driving through France in a little red convertible. But, that was not to be!

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We were very “hard at work” buying in the South of France, traveling back-and-forth between three large fairs and two major marché aux puces. We were in France, however, and “when in France, do as the French do.”

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Morning Haul

Meaning we shopped the antique fairs and puces all morning, then lingered over delicious lunches, eating our fill of crusty baguettes, crevettes, huîtres, and ratatouille while sipping fabulous regional wines, and more often than not, chugging a Coke Zero avec de la glace (as one needs to stipulate, “with ice”). Afternoons and evenings included more shopping, more food, and a lot of driving, whether sightseeing or traveling to our next destination.

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Delicious seafood platter of shrimp and oysters, Sete, France


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Antique shopping in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Driving in France… that’s a sore subject! Not because we were traveling in a big box truck instead of a shiny red sports car, not because the box truck we rented for the fairs and markets was too high for many of the bridges we needed to pass beneath or too wide for the narrow streets we had to maneuver, but because the air conditioning wasn’t working during the unexpected summer heatwave! Now, I’m a country girl at heart. I’ve ridden plenty of miles in a pickup truck with the windows down and a cooler of ice cold beverages in the back, but after two days in a big box truck with no a/c, no cooler (because you can’t buy bags of ice), temps over 100 degrees, and nights spent in hotels that were “climatized” (to nothing lower than 73 degrees), my split personality was beginning to rear its ugly head. Laurent realized it was in everyone’s best interest to repair the air — ASAP!  After several desperate phone calls, he found a dealership that could fix it. In less than three hours, “we were on the road again, the best of friends, goin’ places that we’d never been.” Hallelujah!

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Field after field of lavender in every shade of purple

We continued on our buying trip. The best moments were when we veered off the suggested GPS routes and stumbled upon hidden antique shops, quaint medieval villages, and a 12th-century Benedictine abbey that was converted into a wine cave in 1791.

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Hidden treasures


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Abbaye de Valmagne, nicknamed the “Cathedral of the Vines”

We made new friends, took selfies in lavender fields, sunflower fields and random vineyards, and dined outdoors along various riverbanks and canals. We gaped in awe at the beautiful surroundings, living life comme il faut.

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Vineyard selfie on our way to Uzès

Once we were done being “hard at work,” it was time to claim our own les grandes vacance. We hopped a short flight to Nantes from Montpellier and spent a fun-filled week with Laurent’s wonderful family. It was magical.

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Family time

There was tons of laughter, lots of story telling, despite my terrible French, and more delicious food! We shopped the local seafood and produce markets instead of antique markets. We ate langoustine straight out of the Atlantic and fresh vegetables right out of the garden.

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Fresh produce at local market in Nantes 


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Langoustine for dinner

We took a riverboat cruise down the Erdre with Laurent’s sister acting as our personal tour guide. She’s a remarkable local historian and was so generous sharing her knowledge with me. It made the days Lolo and I ventured off by ourselves much more fascinating and enjoyable.

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Summer sailing camp underway on the river Erdre

We continued to linger over lunches, after all, we were still on French time — everything was closed from noon until 2:00 pm. We saw dungeons and jails, salt flats and saltwater marshes.

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Salt flats, Guérande

We walked (and walked and walked), and climbed all 350 steps of the Grand Degre that leads to the Abbey at Mont St. Michel. We piddled around his mom’s house, watched French TV, and slept with the windows open. I can’t wait to return in the fall!

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Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most exceptional examples of religious and military architecture from the Middle Ages

For almost three weeks we wined and dined in sun-drenched towns and fog filled villages. From the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur regions in Southern France to Brittany, Normandy, and the Loire Atlantique in Northwestern France, we got a “taste” of the real France, with its gorgeous countryside, narrow, winding cobblestone streets, castles and cathedrals, bubbling fountains, outdoor cafés and of course, beautiful antiques.

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L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue waterwheel 


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Cathédrale Saint-Théodorit and its Romanesque Tour Fenestrelle (Window Tower), Uzès


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Medieval town of Clisson

While there’s nothing more quintessentially French than the Eiffel Tower (or the Louis XV bergère), every Francophile should get off the tourist track for a carefree getaway full of fun, romance, and incredible seafood (I’m talking every kind of little shelly creature you can imagine) paired with the best wines in the world. As the title of this summer’s dramedy starring Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin and French actor, Arnuad Viard suggests…. Paris Can Wait, there’s so much more to France.

Here’s a look at three of our favorite South of France side trips. 

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Have you experienced the real France? If so, tell us where your carefree getaway took you. And look for Lolo’s Travel Tips From Our Carefree Summer Getaway next. We had a few foils and fumbles along the way, but managed to go with the flow and have one of the best work-cations ever!

Bon Voyage,


La Rentree Giveaway with Paris Apartment iPhone Application

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 314px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>All across Paris, s tore windows and restaurants are celebrating. “C’est La Rentree!” announces “It’s the Return” from vacation!

In Paris the entire city goes away for their summer “holiday” in August. As my husband works for a French company, we too take August for a month away. This year my darling niece visited us for her Grand Tour and August was awhirl with travel – trips to Paris, Prague and London book-ended nearly a month away in Italy visiting Tuscany, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice and Rome. You’ll be reading about our summer holidays over the next month as I catch up on my blogging, but today the French sentiment of “La Rentree” is my word-du-jour as I return to life post-vacation!

As I am always a fan of combining work with pleasure, I wanted to start this Fall Antiques Diva Season off with a special giveaway in conjunction with the fabulous Claudia Strasser, author of the beautiful Paris Apartment blog.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 265px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Claudia is a professional shopper, French flea market guide and author of The Paris Apartment: Romantic Decor on a Flea Market Budget. And she’s created something Diva Readers need to know about – an iPhone application called”>”Keys to the Fleas” the first in a series of mobile application guides for navigating the flea markets of the world.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 294px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=” to+the+Fleas.jpg” border=”0″ />This application for iPhones is an insider’s guide, written as a trade resource for flea market lovers. For those in the know, Paris is full of treasures. The key to finding them is knowing where and when to look, and with this iPhone application the information is just a click away. The app is a wealth of information for buyers, decora tors, Francophiles and is the perfect companion for all travelers, from the armchair to those planning serious buying trips. It has everything you’ll need to shop like a pro and includes maps, shippers, Métro s tops, bus routes, hours, and of course, local haunts where you can kick back and admire your treasures over a café au lait!

While you can order your to-the-fleas/id380432477?mt=8#”>“Keys to the Fleas” for only $1.99, this week we’re offering a special Antiques Diva – Paris Apartment Giveaway so that one of my fabulous readers can win their very own “Key’s To the Fleas”.
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment telling why you love Paris. Next week on Wednesday 29 September I’ll put all the names in a hat and draw one winner!!!
Bonne Shopping,

The Antiques Diva™
(seen right with Claudia Strasser of Paris Apartment)

Ask The Antiques Diva™ – Bonjour Paris

to 10px; WIDTH: 266px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Each month I write a column for Bonjour Paris Newsletter titled “Ask The Antiques Diva™”. In this month’s column a Parisian party planner takes time off from the hectic world of weddings to plan her own vacation in the Paris of the East. I dish out advice, giving her best bets for buying antiques in Budapest. From the Ecseri Flea Market to Falk Miksa utca, I explain why I think Budapest is called the Paris of the East!

to 10px; WIDTH: 136px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 140px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />tory/ask-antiques-diva-flea-marketing-paris-east/”>Read the Article about Flea Marketing in the Paris of the East!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

The Antiques Diva™